By Emmanuel Ugwu, Umuahia
No fewer thanÂ 10 persons have died and several houses razed in a bloody clash between two border communities in Abia and Cross River States.
As atÂ Tuesday, the state governments and security agencies have moved to control the situation as tensions were still running high.
The clash erupted between the people of Isu clan in Arochukwu Local Government of Abia State and their border neighbours, Utuma in Biase Local Government of Cross River State.Â Â
It was gathered that the bone of contention is the limestone deposit discovered in Isu with the Utuma people claiming thatÂ the area where the mineral deposit is located belongs to them.Â
Following the high casualty figure recorded in the border clash, the people of Isu clan have sent an S.O.S message to the Abia State government to come to their aid in order to save them from being wiped out by their neighbours.
The Abia State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Anthony Ogbizi, confirmed the ugly incident to journalists in Umuahia, saying that the situation had been brought under control by the police.
Denying the casualty figure, the police commissioner said that any community that recorded casualties should compile the names of the victims and submit to the police for necessary action.
Ogbizi explained that the warring communities had taken hostages and were prevailed upon to release the captives, but the people of Utuma claimed that their people were tortured by Isu people hence they invaded the Abia community and burnt their houses.
THISDAY learnt that the clashes between the two border communities broke out penultimateWednesdayÂ and lingered for days before it was brought to the attention of government.
An aide to Abia Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, Hon. Nicholas Igwe Kalu, who is from the affected community, confirmed that no fewer than 10 persons from Isu died in the clashes while several houses were razed.
According to him, the community has been deserted as men, women and children have fled the area for their safety and “tension is still very high” contrary to police claim that they have brought the situation under control.
On the cause of the border clash, Kalu traced it to an ongoing road project being prosecuted by Ibeto Group preparatory to the exploitation of the lime stone discovered in Isu.
He stated that the Utuma people had indeed intensified their attacks on Isu people following the discovery of the limestone and the publicity it has attracted since Ibeto Group expressed interest in exploiting the precious mineral.
Kalu alleged that the Utuma people were the first to take hostages when emissaries from Isu were sent to appeal to their Cross River neighbours not to disrupt the road project by Ibeto.
He said that in reaction, Isu people also abducted some Utuma people but both sides eventually released their captives following the intervention of the military.
He insisted that â€œit is a bloody lieâ€ for anybody to claim that there were no casualties in the border clash because after the exchange of hostages â€œthey (Utuma people) went and reinforced and launched an unprovoked attack with sophisticated weapons, killing and destroying housesâ€.
The SSA lamented that the displaced persons from Isu clan were now languishing in camps in Aro where they are taking refuge and need medical and food supplies to stay healthy pending when their home would be safe for their return.
â€œIf the government fails to intervene immediately, our clan may be wiped out,â€ he said, adding that he had brought the attention of the Deputy Governor, Ude Oko Chukwu, (presently acting governor) to the security issue in the border community.
â€œWe want the government to bring the National Boundary Commission to, as a matter of urgency, come and demarcate our boundary with Cross River State as the best permanent solution to constant clashes between us and Â the Cross River people,â€ Kalu said.